Updated: More Than 1,100 People Evacuated Because of Bethesda Apartment Complex Fire

Residents of north tower at Promenade Towers couldn’t return to homes


A fire at Bethesda's Promenade Towers apartment complex started in a utility room, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Pete Piringer.


Updated 10:25 a.m. Oct. 23: More than 1,100 people from 500 units at the Promenade Towers apartment complex in Bethesda will be displaced for at least several days because of a fire Saturday morning, officials said.

Residents of the north tower of the complex at 5225 Pooks Hill Road were told they could not go back to their homes, Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service spokesman Pete Piringer said. Residents of the south tower were allowed to return to their homes after the fire was out.

Between 1,100 and 1,500 people were displaced, Rebekah Jastremski, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, said Monday. County officials and the organization have opened Gwendolyn Coffield Community Center on Lyttonsville Road in Silver Spring as a shelter for residents who were affected.

Jastremski said officials estimate it will be another five to seven days before all the residents can return to their apartments, and the Red Cross and other organizations will help them until they return.

The Red Cross is providing health services, meals and shelter supplies to the people displaced, she said. The organization provided medical help to 60 people and basic disaster relief—ranging from overnight kits to emergency funds—for another 100 people.

On Saturday night, 16 people stayed at the shelter, and 13 people stayed Sunday night, she said. Others might have stayed with friends or relatives or at hotels. Even those who did not stay at the shelter could go there for meals, but Jastremski did not have information on how many meals were served.

The fire, which was electrical and determined to be accidental, originated in a basement utility room and “involved electrical components,” Piringer said.

Six people were taken to a local hospital because of smoke inhalation, and another 12 were taken with other medical conditions and complications resulting from the power out, he said. A firefighter was taken to the hospital with heat exhaustion.

The fire was largely contained to the utility room, but smoke filled the entire building, Piringer said.

The damage to the co-op apartment complex was estimated to be about $1 million, he said.

Jastremski said house and apartment fires are the most consistent emergency situation the Red Cross responds to, though this requires a larger than typical response.

“Usually they’re not of this magnitude,” she said.

This story will be updated.

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